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Hospital maintenance worker identified as suspect in 1999 cold case

Jennifer Watkins' body was found wrapped in plastic under a remote stairwell at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs.
Credit: Getty Images/Wavebreak Media
The word cold case on red business binder on a desk

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A hospital maintenance worker who was killed in a 2001 crash is believed to be responsible for the 1999 killing of a mother of two who was reported missing after failing to return home from her shift in the kitchen at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs.

Jennifer Watkins, 23, was supposed to pick up her two children on the evening of Nov. 5, 1999, but failed to do so and was reported missing by her husband, the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's Office said.

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Her husband, Michael, and his friend went to the hospital to look for her and found her car still parked in the employee parking lot. Colorado Springs police (CSPD) conducted a search of the hospital and interviewed dozens of employees.

Three days later, on Nov. 8, her body was located in a remote stairwell of the hospital in an area inaccessible to the public. She had been sexually assaulted and beaten to death, according to prosecutors.

Her body had been wrapped in plastic and hidden under a stairwell near the rooftop helicopter pad, the district attorney's office said.

During the investigation, CSPD excluded her husband as a suspect. They also collected DNA from her clothing and the plastic wrap, but for years no match could be found. 

Between 2017 and 2020, CSPD reached out to Parabon NanoLabs (Parabon) to conduct genetic genealogy DNA analysis involving commercial DNA databases.

This year, Ricky Severt, who was killed in a head-on crash on Nov. 1, 2001, was identified as a potential suspect based on analysis of the DNA.

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Severt worked in the maintenance department of the hospital at the time Watkins was killed and had access to the area of the hospital where her body was found, the DA's office said.

They also determined that he was on duty on the night she disappeared. Severt was interviewed early on in the investigation and denied that he knew Watkins, the DA's office said.

Based on the DNA as well numerous interviews and other evidence, prosecutors said they're "confident" Severt is the person responsible for killing Watkins and have closed the case.

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